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Devices and Your Child’s Eyes

by Sep 7, 2018

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Screen time can lead to a number of concerns including attention issues, sleep problems, depression, obesity, and online bullying. There’s another issue to be concerned about – that relating to issues with the eyes.

Oh My Tired Itchy Eyes!

A few days ago, I had been on my phone a bit too much (yes, I admit it) and my eyes started feeling itchy and tired. It was about half way through the day and my eyes felt tired and like I needed to take a nap. I had a good night’s sleep the night before so I didn’t feel tired, but my eyes sure did.

Turns out that the culprit was too much time in front of my phone. Our eyes were not designed for long periods of time in front of close up, back-lit screens. Our eyes are were designed to be used for varying distances from close-up tasks to looking at things at varying distances throughout the day.

Eye Strain and Dry Eye

There have been a number of studies pointing to the effects of digital devices on the eyes. In a UK study, they note that the increased use of digital devices has lead to eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, and pain in the neck and shoulders (“text neck”). Furthermore, they found that there is a decrease in blink rate when we look at digital devices. This leads to dry eye.

Concerned About Your Child’s Eyes?

Our daughter wears glasses, just like her dad and I do. Since all three of us are nearsighted and thus have issues with our eyes, I am already concerned about our eyesight and the possibility of other problems down the road. We frequently nag her if she has her phone too close to her face or if she’s sitting too close to the TV. (Is that a universal kid thing??) We also remind her to take breaks, put the phone down and to go do activities that make her look at things that are farther away.

If you are concerned that your eyes may be bothering you, or the eyes of a loves one, take a look at some of the symptoms of dry eye:

  • Burning eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Occasional blurry vision
  • Grittiness
  • Redness
  • Watery eyes
  • Stinging
  • Irritation
  • Feeling like you have something in your eyes

So What Do You Do?

Kids may not realize this is happening – they may rub their eyes in response to what they think is them simply feeling tired. It’s important that we as parents stay watch for the signs. Dry eye and eye fatigue among children are often “underdiagnosed and can negatively affect vision and school performance” according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Below are a couple of tips that should help:

  • At WebSafe Academy, we advocate for managing screen time and have tools that can help. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends limits on continuous screen time by using the 20-20-20 rule – for every 20 minutes of screen time, take at least a 20-second break, looking 20 feet into the distance. I try to make it it a habit to look up from my computer frequently and look out my home office window to glance at the backyard, the trees and the clouds in the distance. It’s hard sometimes when we’re working working hard to get things done, but it’s important to remember to do.
  • As I wrote in my post Adolescents, Devices and Sleep, sleep is so important for kids and managing devices plays a key role. Getting plenty of rest is paramount to their development and success in school. Using a parental control app and setting a curfew at least one hour before bedtime is recommended so they are not exposed to screens right before bedtime.
  • We often think about sunglasses in the summertime, but when we’re outside, they should be worn year-round to reduce the effects of the sun’s glare on the eyes. Sunglasses provide protection not just from the sun, but also from wind, dust and debris.
  • Often overlooked is that lighting inside the house can be very bright. When we bought our house, we changed all of the light bulbs to energy efficient warm-white LEDs. We went with medium wattage bulbs and changed to dimmer switches. This way we are able to reduce the glare when we are having dinner or watching TV, but can increase the brightness as needed when working on tasks that require more light.

The information and tips we’ve provided are guidelines based on our experience and research. If you or your child’s eyes regularly feel dry, itchy, gritty or blurry, tired, or you have any other symptoms of concern, seek the advice of your eye care professional.

If you need assistance with managing your child’s device, the amount of time spent on social media and so on, we are here to help. We provide unbiased Reviews of parental control apps and how to manage settings in our The Basics Tutorials. If you need more personalized help with topics such as parental control app installation, device management setup, home web filtering, or anti-virus software, schedule a One to One session where we can assist you via phone or video chat.